Year in Books 2013 (Article published in Asian Age, 6 Jan 2013)

Year in Books 2013 (Article published in Asian Age, 6 Jan 2013)

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2012 was the year of memoirs, poetry, short story collections, books on cinema, long narratives (inevitably from the personal point of view) on India and the launch of a clutch of home-grown sleuths (many of whom will resurface this year in sequels). The focus in 2013 will be on politics, and rightly so since 2014 is the year of general elections, the city, sports literature and, of course, fiction.
Publishing houses promise a rich crop of fiction in 2013. Some of the heavyweights who will be returning with new novels include Manil Suri. City of Devi, a dystopian novel set in Mumbai, desolate after threats of nuclear annihilation, is Manil’s boldest and most ambitious novel yet — a satirical and provocative tale that upsets assumptions of politics, religion and sex. Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed is a multi-generational family story revolving around brothers and sisters, and the ways in which they love, wound, betray, honour and sacrifice for each other. This half-a-century of history promises to be a rich and unforgettable story about a land and a people told through different characters.
Jaspreet Singh’s Helium is a story centred on the 1984 Sikh riots; Nadeem Aslam’s Blind Man’s Garden is a novel set in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the months following 9/11 — it’s a story of war and one family’s loss. Then there is Coetzee’s Life of Jesus, Vikas Swarup’s Accidental Apprentice (of Slumdog Millionaire fame), and Mohsin Hamid’s novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, which follows the life of a man from boyhood to old age, from poverty to wealth, all the while playing with the form of the how-to-get-rich self-help manual. There’s also Anosh Irani’s The Cripple and His Talisman and Manjushree Thapa’s new novel, Everyone in Their Own Lives. Anurag Mathur, of The Inscrutable Americans fame, will be releasing two books — Country Going to the Dogs and A Modern Life.
The debut highlights of 2013 include In the Light of What We Know, by Bangladeshi writer Zia Raman Haider, which chronicles the devastating effects of dispossession and unmooring of the self, and Omar Hamid’s novel, The Prisoner, about a former Pakistani police official who unravels the murky underworld of Karachi. Shamsur Rahman Faruqi’s Mirror of Beauty is an “epic novel” about an extraordinary beauty in late Mughal Delhi. Faruqi, one of the most acclaimed scholars of Urdu studies, vividly captures the literature, dress, food and culture of high Islamic culture in 19th-century India.
Film, television and stage actor-director Jayant Kripalani’s New Market Tales is a brilliant short story collection set in the iconic New Market area of Kolkata and Bhaichand Patel’s debut novel, Radha’s Song, is a thriller set in the world of Bollywood’s glitz and glamour.
Translations continue to be published, though in insufficient numbers. But this year Full Circle will release In the City of Gold and Silver: A Historical Novel by Kenizé Mourad, a writer of Turkish and Indian descent. Mourad recounts the fascinating story of Begum Hazrat Mahal, the fourth wife of King Wajid Ali Shah. Also, Seagull Books will publish Abbas Khider’s The Village Indian, and Zubaan will publish Indira Goswami’s last novel, The Bronze Sword of Thengphakari Tehsildar, translated by Aruni Kashyap. Set in late 19th-century Assam, it is the heroic tale of a Bodo freedom fighter who was, arguably, the first woman revenue collector in British India. Vintage Chughtai: A Selection of Her Best Stories translated by Tahira Naqvi will be published by Women Unlimited. For Supernova, Arunava Sinha will translate Dada Saheb Phalke 2012 awardee Soumitro Chattterjee’s memoir With Manikda.
Politics and politicians have always made interesting subjects for literature. In 2012, Shobhaa De released the fabulous Sethji with its delightful and sinister insights into Indian politics. 2013 promises a mix of politics and history, and accounts of regions that are considered precursors of what happens on the national stage. The list includes Punjab by Rajmohun Gandhi; The New Bihar: An Unusual Story of Governance and Development by N.K. Singh; Che in Paona Bazaar: Tales of Exile and Belonging from India’s North-East by Kishalay Bhattacharjee; Waters Close Over Us: A Journey Through Narmada Valley by Hartosh Singh Bal; and One Blood Has Clots by Rahul Pandita.
Eagerly awaited are biographies and tales of dynasties — The Dynasty: The Nehrus and the Gandhis by Pranay Gupta; Indira Gandhi: A Personal and Political Biography by Inder Malhotra; The Vision and Roadmap For The Country By Her Young Parliamentarians (ed. Shashi Tharoor) and Narendra Modi: The Man, the Times by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay and Narendra Modi: A Biography by Kingshuk Nag. Basharat Peer is also scheduled to publish a book on the Muslims of India.
Media reporting on wars, insurgencies, riots and natural calamities routinely overlooks women. In an attempt to address this lacuna, Across the Crossfire: Women and Conflict in India (Ed. by Pamela Philipose and Aditi Bishnoi) presents a series of news-features commissioned by the Women’s Feature Service. Written between 2009 and 2011, these features illustrate a gamut of women’s experiences of conflict in India, their courageous resistance, their creative pragmatism and their inspiring resilience as, time and again, they reach out across divisive lines and rebuild their communities and lives. Within this context it is interesting to hear what Barkha Dutt will highlight in her eagerly awaited This Unquiet Land: Despatches from India’s Faultlines. She will record her experiences from the front lines of every major news event in India over the past decade-and-a-half. Veteran journalist and commentator Khushwant Singh’s The Good, the Bad, the Ridiculous will be about the most unforgettable characters he has met.
The “city” as a subject has slowly been gaining significance (most notably with Mayank Austen Soofi’s — Delhiwalla — recently launched Nobody Can Love You More: Life in Delhi’s Red Light District). Aleph’s book list includes some of the country’s best writers describe India’s iconic cities, evoking their essence through essays that are a combination of history, personal memoir and travelogue. Contributors include Amitava Kumar (Patna), Malvika Singh (Delhi), Nirmala Lakshman (Chennai/Madras), Indrajit Hazra (Kolkata) and Naresh Fernandes (Bombay). Some of the other city books being published include Isha Manchanda’s Carnal City; Amit Chaudhuri’s Calcutta: 24 Years in the City; Gyan Prakash’s Bombay Velvet and Tulsi Badrinath’s Madras to Chennai Express. Yatra/Westland books will launch Yaad Sheher with Neelesh Misra, a series of books based on a popular radio show. Neelesh Misra narrates stories of his childhood, growing up in a small town, leaving home, making it big in the city, the pain and isolation of migration, through a story set in a city of his memories.
Writing on sports has mostly been confined to newspapers but in 2013 a couple of interesting titles include The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption and the Turbulent Rise of Modern India and The Best of Indian Sports Writing. There will also be a biography on Pataudi: Nawab of Cricket.
A couple of books on art that sound promising are Daniells’ India: Views from the Eighteenth Century. Thomas Daniell was 36 years old when he and his nephew William, barely 16, sailed out from Gravesend in April 1785, headed for the East. They arrived in Calcutta via China the next year. The Daniells travelled across India, painting oriental scenery wherever they went. The other book is The History of Indian Art: Sculpture and Mural Paintings by eminent art historian and photographer Benoy K. Behl. Beautifully illustrated, it is a journey through the realms of Indian art from the 4th millennium BC through medieval times.
Business books are constant sellers. Business Titans by Charles Assisi and Indrajit Gupta; Rise and Fall of Rajat Gupta by Sandipan Deb and Business Sutra: Leadership Secrets from Hindu Gods and Goddesses by Devdutt Pattanaik are worth highlighting.
2013 promises to be a satisfying year for books!
Jaya Bhattacharji-Rose is a publishing consultant and critic

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